INGRAINED: Improving institutional governance arrangements and enhancing the quality of strategic decision making through PER

Lead Research Organisation: University College London
Department Name: Office of Vice Provost Research


This bid seeks to address the PER challenge of embedding PER culture and practice into UCL's high-level institutional strategy and decision-making. Specifically, we will examine how we can make PER fundamental to the university's efforts to address global societal issues through cross-disciplinary research by:

1. Creating mechanisms to apply PE learning to high-level institutional strategy focusing on cross-disciplinary approaches to addressing global problems.
2. Addressing the gap in culture and practice between professional services staff responsible for delivering PE strategy and academics who generate knowledge from publicly-engaged research.
3. Consulting both local communities and engaged researchers on how PE can apply local experience to global questions and be embedded throughout the research life cycle.
4. Piloting innovative PE approaches identified through consultation with local communities and engaged academics prior to embedding them in institutional research strategy.

The proposal will specifically address PER through the flagship UCL Grand Challenges programme, which brings together cross-disciplinary expertise from across UCL with knowledge and partners from other sectors to address pressing societal problems. The proposal will particularly seek to address the Grand Challenge of Transformative Technology, one of the seven recommendations arising from a 2015 review of the Grand Challenges for a renewed emphasis on achieving impact through, amongst other things, public engagement and engagement with community groups. This provides a specific opportunity to develop a PER strategy for the Grand Challenge of Transformative Technology, based on evidence, best practice and pilot activities, which will support new means of public and community engagement. Our intention is then to apply this to the broader Grand Challenge programme; the final report will be delivered to all six Grand Challenges working groups to consider how to develop new activities and work streams to better support PER.

Proposed activities:

The proposal's research project (a review of literature and best practice, and participatory workshops with local communities) will be led by UCL Science and Technology Studies (STS) academics and will draw on extensive expertise in science, democracy and culture, including work on: the inclusion and exclusion of publics in science; the relationships between research and practice in science communication; and the role of scientists, citizens and government in responsible research.

The proposal will further pilot public engagement activities (led by UCL Public Engagement Unit) for the Grand Challenge of Transformative Technology, building on existing academic-led public engagement best practice. Building on the outcomes from the participatory workshops, the literature review, and the evaluation of the pilot PER activities, we will develop an evidence-based, PER strategy for the GCTT. This strategy would also provide a blueprint for the other 5 GCs and, ultimately, inform the content of the revised UCL Research Strategy.

Our intended outcomes are to:

- evidence the value of PER in shaping strategic and high-level decision making, and in particular cross-disciplinary research strategy at UCL
- secure institutional buy in to this approach and expand it first to all of the other Grand Challenges and then more broadly to wider institutional strategies
- demonstrate the value of and effective approaches to PER and activities in HEI strategic high level decision making to the broader sector
- make conclusions and recommendations for PER in cross-cutting problem-based research more generally
- offer conclusions and recommendations on how to establish dialogue and partnerships between those responsible for devising and delivering PER strategy and academics engaged in public engagement-focused practice and research

Planned Impact

The project team will co-create a number of outputs that will have impacts on UCL's neighbouring communities, practitioners working on public engagement with research, and on academics at UCL and in the wider HE sector.

Local Communities
Communities and organisations with an interest in UCL's research will be actively engaged throughout the project. The team will build on existing relationships with organisations and individuals connected to, or with an interest in, areas of research being addressed through the Transformative Technology GC strand. Impacts on these groups and individuals will include: opportunities to co-create and contribute to university activities; opportunities to gain funding and resources through shared projects; expansion and strengthening of networks; access to university expertise in subject areas of interest; and development of new knowledge, skills and experience.

Public engagement practitioners
Project outputs, particularly evaluation reports and team reflections on the project, will be shared with national and international public engagement networks, to ensure impact on public engagement practitioners in higher education.

UCL institutional strategy and senior management
This project's recommendations will influence UCL research strategy and all cross-disciplinary problem oriented research taking place under the six Grand Challenges. This work will also inform UCL's approach to embedding public engagement (and addressing global problems through the local context) within the UCL East campus on the Olympic Park, potentially helping embed participatory PER in new research centres.

UCL research and academic staff:
This project will benefit UCL researchers by embedding cross-institutional support for engagement in research and will also assist researchers in defining and focusing their research areas. The focus on engagement in cross-disciplinary and real world contexts will enhance this further. Additionally, the pilot projects will help researchers identify multiple points in the research life cycle in which public engagement could be embedded rather than simply relying on dissemination at its endpoint. The activities funded through this project will also help support a network of UCL researchers with expertise in public engagement, and will generate new networks between UCL people and public participants.

Research funders:
We will seek to draw out any key lessons relevant for research policy and funders and communicate these in order to inform considerations of future funding calls, elements of REF2021 impact criteria, and other policy and funding debates, as well as to ensure that such insights are reflected in UCL's institutional engagement with relevant policy debates.

There is a thorough Pathways to Impact plan to ensure that impacts are delivered and evaluated during the project and after.


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Description The key findings of the project are summarised below. These are primarily of interest to other sin the public engagement community as well as researchers and other university staff seeking to enhance public engagement in their work.
They have been shared with UKRI, other SEEPER award-holders, and the National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement.
• There is a large demand for initiatives to involve communities in research. INGRAINED has highlighted that demand is much greater than previously anticipated and UCL can work harder to provide mechanisms to include community organisations in research where appropriate.
• There are challenges to involving engaged researchers. Any mechanisms to increase community engagement also need to meet the need of researchers, who can find such engagement time consuming.
• Matching and supporting people takes (a lot of) time. Throughout the project we have created a structure to ensure that each team involved in INGRAINED can work together effectively - and create meaningful relationships - but more can be done to create more systematic mechanisms for engagement.
• Public Engagement requires commitment at the highest level. For other HEIs, we would recommend that any similar initiatives be undertaken only when there is commitment at the most senior level and only by a team which encompasses key actors drawn from those who lead on global and local engagement from both a professional services and academic perspective.
• Systematic funding will enable HEIs to put Public Engagement at the heart of research. Consideration of how dedicated funding can be directed to build partnerships between researchers and local communities will help to embed PE into research practice where applicable.
A blog on the project is also available here.
Exploitation Route They have been shared with UKRI, other SEEPER award-holders, and the National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement.
Sectors Government, Democracy and Justice,Other

Description The key findings of the project have informed the development of the 2019 UCL Research Strategy and the development of new vision for public engagement at UC, the Top Ten Targets. UCL is now developing key actions based on INGRAINED through the Research Strategy Implementation Plan, and through an additional action plan for the Grand Challenges. Other impacts include: • Developing shared understanding of PER amongst community partners • More effective governance structures for PER in key ULC programmes and research activities • Improved provision of effective and appropriate CPD for PER • Enhanced engagement with community partners and the development of longer-term partnerships as a platform for public engagement
First Year Of Impact 2018
Sector Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections,Other
Impact Types Cultural

Description Institutional practice on research and public engagement
Geographic Reach Local/Municipal/Regional 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers